The 7 Best Programming Languages to Learn for Beginners

Teach yourself how to code

Learning how to code can unearth a wealth of possibilities, ranging from new employment opportunities to developing applications. However, with so many programming languages out there, figuring out where to start can be intimidating.

Here are the best programming language for beginners, starting with the easiest (or least difficult) and working toward the more challenging ones.

Two people looking at code on a laptop.

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01
of 07

Ruby

What We Like
  • Coding syntax closely resembles spoken languages.

  • More forgiving for novice coders.

What We Don't Like
  • Subpar performance and speed when compared with other popular languages.

With a relatively easy-to-use syntax that makes it a logical starting point for new developers, Ruby offers a level of readability that isn't found in most programming languages. It's widely referred to as the coding language that closely resembles spoken languages like English in terms of its construction and sensible flow.

Ruby is a dynamically typed language, meaning that variable types are checked at run-time as opposed to validation occurring at compile-time. Since these types aren't checked until code execution, it's a forgiving language for new programmers.

Even though Ruby is ideal for beginners, it's not only a stepping stone. It's powerful when used with the Rails framework. This duo is commonly referred to as Ruby on Rails, often found in database-driven web development, including several well-known sites and services.

There are some downsides. One downside is its less-than-impressive performance and speed compared to other popular languages. There are also some concerns about scalability to larger, more complex platforms.

Perceived limitations aside, Ruby serves as an excellent starter language, which can be useful once you become proficient with the language.

Supported Operating Systems for Programming:

  • iOS (using RubyMotion or a similar app)
  • Android (using multiple third-party apps)
  • Windows
  • macOS
  • Linux (most popular distributions)
02
of 07

Python

What We Like
  • Increasingly a desired skill across a range of industries and professions.

What We Don't Like
  • Not as thorough or exhaustive as other languages.

Python is another general-purpose language and is recommended for beginners. You can learn to script basic functionality on your first day when following a good tutorial. Python is helpful in understanding fundamental coding concepts. Being well-versed in Python is an increasingly desired skill across multiple industries.

Employed on the backend of some major services, including Instagram and YouTube, and heavily used by data scientists in a rapidly growing field, Python is also used to build video games with the PyGame library.

As with Ruby, you can assign a string to a variable that initially held an integer, and vice versa. As you're learning, it's important that you use Python's flexible nature for good, however, and not to develop sloppy coding practices. It should be easy for you to focus on proper structure and syntax as you move forward. There's typically less code and less typing needed than in other languages.

Supported Operating Systems for Programming:

  • iOS (via Pythonista or a similar app)
  • Android (via multiple third-party apps)
  • Windows
  • macOS
  • Linux (most popular distributions)
03
of 07

HTML5 and CSS

What We Like
  • Easy to learn.

  • HTML5 broadens the scope to include mobile apps.

What We Don't Like
  • Mostly limited to web design.

HTML and CSS aren't the same language and aren't interchangeable terms. HTML and CSS are combined here since many coders choose to learn CSS while learning HTML. The main reason being that both languages are key to web page design, display, and behavior.

HTML is a markup language and uses tags to define elements within a document. When properly constructed, this document renders in a web browser or other compatible display mechanism. CSS dictates how these HTML elements display by controlling the page layout.

HTML5, in particular, has become popular for creating mobile apps, dispelling the outdated notion that this combination is only useful when programming websites. It isn't difficult and serves as another ideal starter language for novice developers.

Supported Operating Systems for Programming:

  • iOS
  • Android
  • Windows
  • macOS
  • Linux
04
of 07

JavaScript

What We Like
  • The world's most popular programming language.

  • Common for on-the-fly updates, interactive features, animation, and other non-static elements.

What We Don't Like
  • More difficult to learn than other beginner languages.

  • You should learn HTML and CSS first.

While not without its detractors, JavaScript is a must-learn if you plan to develop for web-enabled devices. Still the world's most popular programming language, JS is used to manipulate the output of HTML and CSS, among other things. Having a decent grasp on the three doesn't make you a full-stack web developer, but it does allow you to create an end-to-end web presence.

JavaScript is notably more difficult to learn than the other languages listed in this article. JavaScript is largely responsible for on-the-fly updates, interactive features, animation, and other non-static elements found on a web page or other web-based output.

We highly recommend JavaScript as your next step if you're interested in developing for the web, but not until you're comfortable with HTML and CSS. Understanding the JS object-oriented structure may seem daunting at first, but cultivating this skillset can take you a long way personally and professionally.

Supported Operating Systems for Programming:

  • iOS
  • Android
  • Windows
  • macOS
  • Linux
05
of 07

Java

What We Like
  • Vast compatibility. Ideal for coding applications that run across multiple platforms or operating systems.

  • Lots of online resources and forums if you get stuck.

What We Don't Like
  • Can be difficult to learn, let alone become proficient.

Also object-oriented, this general-purpose language is often the choice for coding applications to run across most popular platforms such as Windows, macOS, and Linux. Java is also the main language of the Android operating system, therefore the most-used when creating apps for that OS.

Its 'write once, run anywhere' slogan highlights this vast compatibility, which, along with its powerful core and comprehensive Java Runtime Environment (JRE), makes Java an attractive choice for individual programmers and larger development shops.

While not as easy to learn as the languages covered up to this point, the web contains a treasure trove of materials and support forums that often feature step-by-step guidance from top-of-the-line developers.

You're never alone when you get stuck on a Java problem. The answer almost always lies somewhere among these seemingly limitless (and often free) resources.

Supported Operating Systems for Programming:

  • Android
  • Windows
  • macOS
  • Linux
06
of 07

Swift

What We Like
  • Basic syntax and libraries are structured in a way that makes sense.

What We Don't Like
  • The application is limited to Apple devices.

Just as Java is the preferred language for developing Android apps, Swift was created by Apple for the sole purpose of programming macOS, iOS, watchOS, and tvOS apps. This open-source language is intended to be an improvement on Objective-C, making APIs simple to read and maintain while handling memory management automatically.

Swift's benchmarks on Apple hardware tend to impress, with noticeably improved speed over apps developed in another language. Its basic syntax and libraries are structured in a way that makes sense, purposely deviating from unnecessary confusion as much as technically possible in some areas.

One of the other reasons we like Swift as an advanced language for new programmers is the Swift Playgrounds app, which provides an enjoyable learning experience for coding.

Supported Operating Systems for Programming:

  • iOS
  • macOS
07
of 07

R

What We Like
  • Free, open-source language and environment focused on statistical computing and graphics.

What We Don't Like
  • Not as established as other programming languages.

  • A steep learning curve.

Perhaps no technical field is growing faster than big data, with salaries for data scientists and other related positions climbing rapidly. The most enticing aspect of this field, aside from the money, is that it spans several popular industries on an ever-growing list. Whether you want to work in finance, sports, the medical field, or elsewhere, understanding data exploration and development might be your ticket.

R is a free, open-source language and environment focused on statistical computing and its corresponding graphics. It is a favorite for analyzing and manipulating large data sets. While not as established as some of the other languages in this article, helpful manuals are available from the R development core team and other worthwhile resources throughout the web.

The learning curve may be a bit steep if you're not mathematically inclined. Still, pushing through those challenging moments can be rewarding in the long-term.

Supported Operating Systems for Programming:

  • Windows
  • macOS
  • Linux (most popular distributions)

Other Notable Programming Languages

This should not be considered an all-inclusive list. Your situation may dictate learning a different language, such as C++ or PHP.

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Orgera, Scott. "The 7 Best Programming Languages to Learn for Beginners." ThoughtCo, Jun. 15, 2021, thoughtco.com/best-programming-languages-for-beginners-4172097. Orgera, Scott. (2021, June 15). The 7 Best Programming Languages to Learn for Beginners. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/best-programming-languages-for-beginners-4172097 Orgera, Scott. "The 7 Best Programming Languages to Learn for Beginners." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/best-programming-languages-for-beginners-4172097 (accessed September 26, 2021).